Jesus Never Fails

Several weeks ago, I remember sitting on my bed one morning crying out to the Lord for wisdom. A big decision lay in front of me, either choice likely to change my future. The unrest in my heart was tremendous, and all I could pray was “Lord, which way do I take?” I remember hearing a bird singing outside—one of those beautiful short melodies—and remember the disappointed feeling that washed over me as I realized I couldn’t enjoy it in that moment. I love God’s nature, I do, but at that moment the darkness was so deep that I couldn’t appreciate it the way I would have liked to.

Can you relate? I’m sure you probably can. And while situations like that aren’t fun, they’re also often a great way for the Lord to draw us closer to Him. That time was an intense time of Bible study and prayer for me, and He proved Himself faithful once again. Praise the Lord!

Violet 01

Since then, I’ve come across a few scriptures that have been a huge blessing to me.

Psalm 37:4-7

4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Hebrews 13:5-6

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

I’ve spent some time today getting a few reviews up on the website. This job isn’t the most interesting job ever—I’ve been known to complain to a friend before that my hands have to keep busy, but my mind isn’t needed for it! While that is not quite true, since I do have to make sure everything gets put where it needs to go, I do often have a recorded message or music playing in the background so I don’t get too bored. In times like this, I’m thankful for the entertainment and encouragement from guys like the Emmanuel Quartet. I don’t normally listen to a cappella music, but I really appreciate some of the songs in this recording. And it keeps me from going bonkers, so that’s a definite plus!

(Okay; I’ve tried to set the following video to start at the beginning of their 20-minute set, but it doesn’t appear to be cooperating. Since the entire video is 10 hours long, it apparently struggles to calculate 8 hours and 22 minutes exactly. Sorry!)

One of the songs in this set by Emmanuel Quartet (4th or 5th song, I believe) is about how Jesus never fails us…what a beautiful thought!

I took a break from the computer this afternoon, and wandered out behind my sleepout to check up on a chicken’s nest I spotted there yesterday. One of our loose hens decided to make a cozy nest under some of the tussock out there, and right now we need to keep tabs on it so we know when she starts sitting. There are currently six eggs in there, so it’ll probably be another week or so until that happens.

Eggs

We’re also expecting new chicks from another hen soon. Lambs are starting to pop up all over the place, and we have a new calf. The huge patch of violets behind my house are blooming right now. Everything’s coming alive again—any wonder that my favorite season is spring?

Violet 02

God is so good to us. On the dark days, even when you realize you’re struggling to appreciate the little things that normally give you joy, look to Him. Trust His word—whether you’re making a big decision or a minute one. He’s there watching, guiding, protecting and holding you. He loves you.

 

I’ll leave you with one final song, one that’s been a great encouragement to me lately.

Guy/Girl Relationships: An Aha! Moment

These last few days, I’ve been really wondering what a Biblical perspective for guy/girl relationships is. How are we girls supposed to treat guys? Is it possible to be friends with a guy, and yet not have to worry about coming across as romantically interested when all you intend to do is simply be a friend? For me, it hasn’t been that hard to be friends with other girls. Yes, I’m always nervous when I meet new people, and am generally pretty quiet until I get to know them better. But I’ve never really had the chance to be friends with guys, probably at least partly due to the fact that I’m always worried that I’ll come across in a different way than I intend to.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about this, and while I’m sure I don’t have the entire answer yet, I think I’ve found the key to the solution.

My problem is that I’ve always imagined friendships with guys with the view of them being possible future marriage partners. Never simply as “friends”.

Guy/Girl Relationships

From what I can see, these are two completely different friendships—the one with my girlfriends is mostly about being a blessing to them, listening when they have struggles, sharing struggles of your own, being together and talking about everything under the sun. However, what I’ve always imagined in a guy’s friendship is mostly stuff centered around romance and marriage. How selfish and pointless is that?

I think what’s happened is that I’ve unconsciously bought into a lie—and I’ll explain that in a moment.

I’ve got an older friend (and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this!) that made a bad decision in her younger years. She went against the advice of her friends and family, and many years later realized her mistake and tried to correct it. However, from what I read in the Bible, her method of correcting the situation was wrong. That fact aside, she’s since told me that in effect, you should do what you deem is right, no matter what others say. That you should follow your heart no matter what the outcome will be, instead of leading your heart.

From what I’ve heard from modern music, TV, blogs, movies, the internet, and other sources (intentionally or not), I believe this is a modern worldly view. Modern media is pushing the thought that girls’ relationships with guys (and vice versa) can never be simply friendships. It’s okay to have lots of friends in your own gender, but if you cross over into the other gender, that most likely means that you’re interested in dating or going out with them.

The sad thing is, it’s so prevalent that I have unconsciously accepted that as truth. That I can’t have simple friendships with guys without having a “purpose” behind that friendship.

This is not only a lie, but it’s dangerous. And completely unbiblical.

A pertinent verse that comes to mind on this subject is one from 1 Timothy 5:1-2: “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethrenThe elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (emphasis mine)

Taken at face value, this literally means we girls should treat younger men as if they were our brothers, and for the guys to treat younger women as if they are their sisters. Note that nothing is said like “but it’s best if you’re only friends with those of your own gender.” The only stipulation is that you treat them “with all purity”. That would apply to both parties, I believe.

For me, this is revolutionary—that it is okay to simply be friends. Of course, we still have to be careful in our friendships. We still have to be aware that others may see and interpret our words and actions differently than we do. But if we keep to treating everyone “with all purity”, in Christ’s love, be sober minded (yes, I’m talking to myself), and continually commit every friendship to the Lord—whether it be within our own gender or not—we should be alright.

Oh, and sober minded? Different definitions could include self-controlled, wise, discreet, or sensible.

Here are two other helpful passages as well:

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” —1 Timothy 4:12–16

“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”—Titus 2:4–8

God’s Perfection in Mathematics

One evening about a month ago, my six-year-old brother asked a question that was designed to stump the oldest of us. “What’s fifty times fifty?” He loves starting with the hardest number to multiply that he can fathom, and then multiply that by itself, the new number by itself again, and keep going—until even the calculator groans and returns an E+, ‘Overflow’, or simply starts showing uninterpretable decimals.

Squares 01

But since fifty times fifty isn’t too big, I set it up on the whiteboard for him and gave him the answer. “Two thousand five hundred.”

“So…what’s forty times forty?”

I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went from there, but we ended up calculating several squares in the 47-52 range. After looking at the ones on the board, I suddenly wondered if there was a pattern. If we could possibly predict the next one.

472 = 2,209
482 = 2,304 (difference from 472: 95)
492 = 2,401 (difference from 482: 97)
502 = 2,500 (difference from 492: 99)
512 = 2,601 (difference from 502: 101)
522 = 2,704 (difference from 512: 103)

If there is a pattern, 532 should be 522 plus 105. It is—2,809.

After this, Mom went back to 1 and wrote down the squares of the first 12 numbers, to see if they followed the same pattern.

Squares 02

Should give you an idea of what she did. The differences are the bottom row of numbers.

They do. Each difference is precisely two numbers greater than the last one. Incredible, isn’t it? And while it’s amazing, we also realize that God has known all along and He made it that way for a reason.

So there’s your math lesson for the day. A terribly impractical, but undeniably fascinating pattern.

Grape Harvest

Well, I wrote this post a couple weeks ago and intended to add more to it later…but time has slipped away and I’ve finally decided to go ahead and publish it, even if it is a bit late. Nothing much has changed since then anyway.

During the school holidays the last week of April, we got a call saying that it was time to begin grape harvest. I first helped with the harvest five years ago, when friends of ours were managing the vineyard, and have every year since then. It hasn’t always been the easiest or most enjoyable work ever, but over the years—and the last two, especially—I think I’ve learned to enjoy it more.

Grape Harvest 01

Picking up nets

There’s just something about being outside, helping with the harvest, that is exciting. You see the fruits of your labors—all those hours in the hot sun working to take leaves off so the grapes can get some sunlight, lifting wires to help support the still-growing canes and keep them in their proper places, or putting on nets to protect them from birds—watching bins upon bins of juicy fruit come from that work is exciting. Satisfying.

And while I may not always appreciate or enjoy some of the things connected to the harvest, I love thinking of the symbolism Jesus drew between harvests and workers, vines and His church.

Grape Harvest 02

Full buckets, awaiting the tractor’s return with an empty bin.

Several times, we had to pause in our work to wait for the tractor’s return. Usually it wasn’t long; most of the time we could keep working and just piled all the available buckets.

In the spiritual world, we are all waiting for the “tractor” to come to take us home to heaven. How full will our buckets be when the tractor arrives? Will we have done our best to prepare for that event?

Grape Harvest 03

We haven’t quite finished the harvest yet—the grapes under the white nets in the picture above have not ripened nearly enough. Last we heard, the Brix (sugar content) was at 16 and it should be between 21 and 23. That means the juice is VERY sour, and will not make good wine. We’re waiting to find out whether to take the nets off and let the birds eat the grapes, or if we’ll be able to pick them after all (providing it’s warm and sunny enough to let them ripen more).

Grape Harvest 04

Learning to Love

This month, I’m participating in a study on love, based on 1 Corinthians 13. I’ve had different ideas on the topic over the years—back when I was 5 or 6 and couldn’t write much, the most common phrase in my letters was “God is love”.

Back then, those words were security to me. That is who God is. But my idea of love—God’s love—never went far beyond that. That is who God is, but I never applied it to my life as “God is love, so therefore I should be . . . .”

Learning to Love

Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2-3)

The study so far has been challenging and enlightening. Seeing how without love we are practically useless has made me wonder how love is shown in my life.

  • Am I showing love to my coworker when she offers to do the last little bit of cleaning, that can only be done by one person, and I let her do it? Especially when I know she’s tired and would rather go home to rest?
  • Am I showing love to my brother when he has an exciting experiment and I’m feeling tired and grumpy, so I tell him I’m not interested?
  • Am I showing love to my friend when I tell her of my troubles, but never care to ask her about hers?
  • Am I showing love to my neighbor when she stops by, and since I don’t really like her I take the option to duck out to my room and let Mom talk rather than carry on a conversation?

Truthfully, I have to answer no to all those questions. I’m pretty terrible at showing love. So this next week, I’m challenging myself to do at least one thing each day to show love to someone—whether it’s speak a word of encouragement, do something for someone, or simply listen to my brother’s idea and practice some patience.

This week, I want to be proactive about learning to love those around me. I do love and appreciate a lot of people, but usually that isn’t shown.

Will you join me? Can we have a positive influence on the world and the people around us this next week?

And if this aspect of love is a little easier for you than for some of us, do you have any practical tips for how to actively show our love to others?

Where This Blog is Headed

(To change things up a bit and make it easier for you, I’ll start with the conclusion so you can get the gist of why I’m writing this post—and if you don’t have time for the other 1,000-some words, you’ll still know what’s going on.)

From now on, I’m going to be writing about the stuff that I find interesting. It might be my goals for the week, it might be what we’ve been doing lately, it might be just a random thought from the morning’s Bible study. And, perhaps sometimes, I’ll share a tip or resource I’ve recently found.

I’m not going to try to write for a particular audience. It will end up being mostly applicable to homeschool students/graduates, and maybe Moms at times. I just don’t want to keep writing about something I’m not 100% interested in—there are plenty of other things in my life that I do that I’m not putting my all into, and I don’t want to have to do that with this blog as well.

Where This Blog is Headed

Alright, here’s the reasoning behind this change:

If you haven’t figured this out already, I’ll tell you now: I love to think. Therefore, a lot of what I want to share on my blog is random thoughts I’ve had. And recently while thinking about this blog, I realized something needs to change. I’ve hinted at changes several times (in February’s newsletter, and perhaps once or twice here), but as yet I haven’t come to any conclusive thoughts on the matter.

The purpose of this post today is to sort out all the thoughts I’ve had about this blog, what I don’t like about it and what I want to do in the future. If you don’t want to read it, that’s fine—I just need to process everything somewhere and this seems to be the best place to do it.

Peas

Can’t pull the pea off? Go ahead and eat it while it’s still attached to the vine–it won’t hurt you.

Before I begin, I’d like to go back to when I first started this blog. Back in May and June last year, as I was preparing to launch Learning Resource Directory, I decided I wanted something to go along with the website. Something with fresh content that was updated frequently, as opposed to the almost-static book reviews. Yes, they’re fresh and 5-7 new ones are posted a week, but they aren’t as engaging as a blog. Once posted, they’re basically static content.

I decided a blog would be the best option. Since I was interested in writing, and since writing is very involved with books, and since books are also very involved in homeschool, I decided to have a blog designed to encourage homeschoolers and writers. Purposeful Learning was created.

However, over the past few months I’ve come to realize that I’m not always thinking about or interested in writing or homeschooling. Therefore the posts I posted felt forced—I was writing about the topic of the blog, even though my heart wasn’t in it. Sometimes, there are other things that are much more interesting to me.

Salt Mountains

Mountains of salt at a factory north of us—spotted on a recent family trip.

Then I read a blog post on Noveltea. And the wheels really started turning. (Please, do read that post—I’ll try not to copy Lydia’s thoughts, but I do agree with her on every point!)

There are some things I really don’t like in different people’s blogs…and yet I write the same way myself. There are some popular guidelines that mainstream bloggers give as to how to be a successful blogger. But yet some of those are not appealing to me. From the very beginning, I wanted a way to share my life, my concerns about the world around me, and my random thoughts, in a place that people—even just one or two—could read it, be encouraged, and possibly allow that to change their lives. Or, if I have the wrong idea about something, that they could show me how I’m wrong, and I can change (Matthew 18 in action, to some extent).

Just so I can sum this up in my head, and since I have a thing for numbered lists and bullet points, here are a few things I’ve considered when mulling this topic over.

Some things I don’t like in blogs:

  • Posts that don’t resonate with me or my situation right now. A lot of advice given is to find your niche and write for that niche. However, there are some flaws in that idea—I’ll address them later. Suffice to say for now, if a blog I follow mostly shares posts that I don’t find interesting, I’ll rarely read the blog. The only reason I follow it is because I know the person and/or they sometimes share something that I find very helpful.
  • Posts that are all about the same thing. Also relating to the first point—there are some major downfalls to blogs like this. No, I’m really not interested in your book right now, no matter how much you talk about it. Does your life really completely revolve around that book?
  • Pictures that are used…and reusedI know I’m guilty of this myself, but really—I’ve already seen that picture. Yes, it’s a nice one, but don’t you take new ones on occasion?
  • Blogging just for the sake of gaining attention. I’m highly guilty of this, but I want it to change! Yes, it’s pretty obvious that the only reason you write is because you want to attract big numbers and/or attention from those in the publishing world. Sorry, but I’m not interested in being part of a fanbase like that.
Boating

Big brother taking little sis for a boat ride.

Some things I do like in blogs:

  • Posts sharing ordinary life. Ones that contain the nittie-grittiness of life, such as telling how you failed (again) at completing that goal. Of course, if you’re always failing and never ever get it right, then that can be over-the-top too, but I love hearing how you are failing and then experiencing the win with you. Pictures showing your life also are really fun.
  • Random thoughts. I love getting in other people’s heads, and when they share the random pieces of information they’ve picked up lately, I really enjoy that glimpse into their lives.
  • Goal posts or reading lately/doing lately posts. Kind of the same idea as the first point, but I love seeing what things other people are trying to achieve in their lives, and then following their progress. I also love seeing what they’re reading, listening to, etc. as well.
Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock, a beautiful piece of New Zealand coast north of us.

Why I think writing for a niche is faulty:

The reasoning you get is, if you write for a niche, then you’ll attract fans that are especially interested in the things that you’re interested in. People will know what they’ll get when they come to visit, which provides some reason for them to come by. They’ll know when they see your name what you represent, which provides some form of security.

While I can see the logic behind that (that is, if I’m understanding the advice right), and the value in branding yourself, I see one little problem that could potentially be huge:

What about all the other things that we’re interested in, but we can’t share because we’re trying to write for our target audience?

I explored the thought in a comment on Lydia’s post, but basically it boiled down to: We’re all three-dimensional characters. We’re all interested in a lot of different things. And it’s really hard to connect to a one-dimensional person. Maybe I should just quote my comment:

“Having a blog that doesn’t have a particular “niche” means that we share whatever comes to mind at any particular time. To say it in writing terms, our blogs become dynamic, well-rounded characters, instead of being flat one-dimensional characters. Just about everyone has their own wide range of interests, and when that is shown through the blog, we can connect a lot better. Just as we don’t connect very well to one-dimensional characters in books, we also can’t connect as well to one-dimensional blogs.”

In conclusion, I want to be genuinely me, and I think changing is the best way to do it. I’ll be writing about what I find interesting, and hopefully you’ll find interesting as well. So…welcome to my brain!

By the way, if you managed to read all the way to the end—all 1,300+ words, I congratulate you. Great job.

Now go do something worth doing!

Over to you: What kind of blog posts and blogs do you enjoy reading? Do you have any tips for how I (or other people!) could do this whole blogging thing better?

The Rock Stands Forever

When I got home from work today, I found out that a friend of the family who had been planning to come spend the day with us tomorrow came today instead, and brought a friend along with him. It was great to meet her, and nice to catch up with him a little.

Ocean02

The muddy color in the ocean to the top right is where a river (obviously very silty right now!) is joining the ocean.

After talking for a while this afternoon, most of the family went out to the local beach. We’ve had quite a bit of hot weather lately, so it was nice to relax and wade a little in the beautiful cool Pacific!

Ocean03

We were on the beach for 15 minutes or so, and then headed up the steep, winding hill to the lookout over the bay. This is a favorite spot for us; we’ve taken quite a few different visitors up there. It never seems to get old, though.

Ocean04

While we stood at the railing, enjoying the breeze, the sunshine, and the beauty around us, our new friend commented that these rocks have been there for a long, long time—even longer than she or I have been alive. Pondering that fact, looking at the intricately carved cliff face, reminded me of God.

“His Word lasts forever, too,” I commented as I studied the deep greens of the native bush in front of us.

Ocean01

We might come past and look at it, maybe even dig a little into it to figure out why it looks the way it does. Generations come and go, and yet His Word is always there. Unchanged, unmoved, solid as rock.

“Lots of little faces have come and stared at this rock, just like we are now,” my new friend mused. “Then they go away, but the rock stays there. And more little faces will come and look at it again.”

Through everything—storm, wind, hail, earthquake, beating sun—the rock stands.

Ocean05

Soon it was time to move on. My cousin, who was also with us, wanted to explore a track he had found there—that we had no idea was in the area, even though we’ve explored that particular beach many different times. It was a fun walk; we did a good portion of it in an hour and a half.

Ocean06

A container ship we spotted from the lookout on the track.

On the way down, the boys all went at their own speeds, most getting to the beach and changed before we got back.

Ocean08

I stopped to “smell the roses” for a bit. Except I think I forgot to actually smell them in my attempt to get a good picture.

Ocean07

All in all, it’s been a gorgeous day! God’s creation is so beautiful . . . hearing the twitters and tweets of birds singing in the native bush, the crash and roll of the waves hitting the beach, the sucking knocking sound of rocks rolling in the receding wave, the indescribable blue blue of the ocean, the beautiful piney scent as we drove under pine trees, and so many other sights and sounds and flavors that I can’t even describe. God is good. God is so, so good.

And the really amazing part? Despite all this beautiful creation, that He can enjoy every single day of every single year, He chooses to love us—who scorn His very Gift all too often.

Challenge: What is one thing you can see from where you are right now that shows His beautiful loving care? That shouts that He is in control?

On Being Real

(Or, in other words, welcome to the sometimes-crazy-almost-random side of my brain.)

There’s this thing in the blogging world that crops up every once in a while. Although it goes by different names, it all boils down to one thing in the end . . . being real.

On Being Real

Every once in a while, people will post posts that talk about their failure to write because of fear—fear of censure, or fear that they aren’t cut out to do what they’re doing, or another of the one hundred and one reasons that, in the end, simply mean that they haven’t—or haven’t been willing to—“face up”.

To be quite honest, I really, really admire those people. Whenever they post a post like that, they’re opening themselves up to the whole world, saying “nope, I’m not perfect and yes, it’s okay if you turn your guns on me too.”

That takes courage.

But I have to wonder—even if they do dedicate themselves to being real, to sharing the hard, genuine, sometimes even harsh truths about themselves and their world, how long is it going to stay that way? What about all their previous writings—does that mean they weren’t presenting their true “selves” then, but instead were presenting the mask that they want others to see and know them by?

I can’t answer those questions.

I can say, however, that sharing the real stuff—who you really are underneath—is sometimes incredibly difficult. Okay, to tell you the truth—sometimes I wonder who I, myself, really am! Why did I decide to do it that way? What’s my hidden driving motive? Is it the true me that’s doing this, or my desire to please someone else?

I’m committed to sharing things the way they are; not the way I’d like them to be or the way I believe others would like to see them. I don’t always get there, but that’s my goal.

So what about you? Are you committed to being real too? How do you share the “real” side?